What's the point of GM's "GMC" marque?

I understand that during the bailout period, General Motors was under pressure to get rid of four of its marques. Eventually, it ditched Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer, but resisted eliminating the “Buick” mark, largely because of its popularity in China.

However, GM still has the “GMC” marque, one that seems to me has no purpose other than to rebadge Chevy trucks.

What’s the point of the GMC marque? Why not just make them all Chevrolets?

Because Chevrolet dealers sell Chevrolet trucks, and there’s a Chevrolet dealer just about any place in the U.S. where any truck is sold. That closes off that territory for other GM dealers. If Buick (and formerly Pontiac and Oldsmobile) dealers want to sell trucks, GM has to offer them a different marque.

Chrysler used to have Plymouth trucks, as well as Dodge trucks, for the same reason.

Just let them sell Chevrolet trucks. It’s not like the traditional dealer network system has been proven flawless.

Keep in mind that there are people who would never buy a Chevy truck but would readily buy a GMC truck because it’s ‘heavy duty’ and ‘much better built’. Whether the differences between the trucks are real or not doesn’t matter since the brand differentiation is so strong… go figure.

If GM didn’t make money selling both Chevy and GMC trucks they wouldn’t keep both brands… it’s that simple.

IMO, having the two brands allows them to create two different “style families”, for ignorance of a better term. I think they can try to reach a wider audience by having GMC look even brawnier than the Chevy equivalent. We’re thinking about an Equinox as our next vehicle, and tend to like the looks of it better than the Terrain.

If most people who bought GMC trucks bought Chevys instead, they would knock Ford off the top for total truck sales.

GMC dealers also carry a wider range of trucks than Chevy dealers do or can, including medium-duty commercial trucks that Chevy doesn’t offer. They’re a popular source for small businesses who want dump trucks, stake trucks, panel vans, etc.

Since no other GM brand was in the medium-duty commercial truck business, I doubt GM would have been eager to shut GMC down.

I would think that GM could integrate the two product lines (e.g. keep Chevy and dump the GMC brand) keeping the best selling models from both brands, but some bean counter in Detroit has probably done the analysis and the GM execs have decided it’s not worth it for whatever reason.

It would be interesting to know if GMC trucks are made in different factories than Chevy trucks. I assume they are, but if there were made at the same factory that would dispel the myth that they are in fact different vehicles, besides their exteriors.

Remember that Ford sold the Taurus and Sable at the same time for many years and some people would argue that one was much better than the other… it didn’t matter which one people preferred as long as they bought a ‘Ford’.

Partly, at least, due to trade restrictions and international trade agreements. Years ago for example when GM facilities in Canada were nationalized during
WW2, GM Canada trucks identical to Chevys were sold under the name of “Maple Leaf”. More recently, on a Canadian vacation trip, I remember seeing Ford trucks driving around with the “Mercury” brand on them.

An analogy would be when I worked for a company that produced hybrid seeds. That had bought out about a half-dozen older seed companies. All domestic sales were made under our own company name, but foreign shipments went under the name of one of these old “shell” companies. Same exact seed, same containers, but printed with a different label/logo. It was explained to me that these old companies had, at some point, negotiated the rights to sell seed in these various countries, whereas our company had not. So, to satisfy the import requirements it had to be sold under one of the old names.

GMC’s are a lot more popular in Canada, although I don’t know if that’s enough to keep the badge afloat on its own. GMC is also GM’s medium-duty truck brand (i.e. cube vans and delivery-truck type things), which is doing quite well, so they probably don’t want to get rid of it just for that reason alone.

I would guess selling the pickups to the general public under the GMC name probably doesn’t cost them much in addition to whatever costs are associated with maintaining the brand for medium-dutys (although I admit I’m not exactly sure how getting rid of brands really saves much money in the first place, but whatever).

Definitely the same factories. My cite is my professional experience. There’s absolutely no difference between them, other than the features that distinguish them (things that bolt on the same, in other words).

I would imagine that it would be burdensome on a Chevy dealer, who previously only dealt in passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks, to have to shoehorn in a selection of dump trucks, delivery vans, commercial flatbeds, etc., while former GMC dealers would have to reduce their selection of trucks to start shoehorning in passenger cars and “sport trucks.” It would also do disservice to the commercial GMC shopper-- the small business owners-- who would likely have a reduced selection of the commercial vehicles at the combined dealerships.

The Chevy-level light-duty trucks sold by GMC would seem to be a net money maker for GM. GMC can charge a profitable premium to individual customers since people are apparently willing to pay more to have the “heavy duty” name brand, and it attracts business fleet customers who need both light- and medium-duty trucks (thus able to directly compete with Ford Trucks). I think people forget commercial truck users when they think of the GM brands; if GMC existed only to sell pick-ups, then I could understand the argument that they’d be better served by merging with Chevy. As it is, I think the argument would go better in the other direction; it would make more sense to turn Chevy into a car/SUV brand, and bring the pick-up line into the GMC brand.

Good point… well put. Chevy selling cars only makes more sense to me now.

Typically the same platform will be assembled at one plant. For instance, the Ford Escape and the Mazda Tribute are both assembled at the same facility (for American sales). It is relatively trivial to switch out whatever tooling to go from one brand or trim to another.

To be fair, the Sable had different trim options than the Taurus. Both cars were mechanically identical at basic trim, although the Taurus had some different suspension options that couldn’t be had on the Sable. Welcome to the world of brand management.

Reducing the number of brands simplifies management structure (i.e. all the dead weight that serves to foster internal competition) and marketing, as well as reducing dealer network support. Generally the reason for killing off a brand is that it just isn’t being profitable compared to the same platforms on other marquees, i.e. Plymouth. I’m not sure why GM retains Buick (which makes shitty cars that aren’t purchased by anyone under the age of sixty) and killed Pontiac, but there you go. Curiously, while the European automakers do a lot of shared platforms, they don’t really engage in brand management to the extent of American automakers; European automakers use the same marquee for inexpensive compact cars and high performance sedans and simply distinguish between the production lines by class or series.


A marquee is a sign with replaceable letters, as is often seen outside movie theaters.

A marque is a brand name.

The main reason GM kept the Buick brand is that it is very popular in China - they sell about twice as many Buicks there than they do in the US.

I wondered about this at the time, and still wonder now; why does its popularity in China mean that they would need to keep the brand in America? GM has no problem having regional brands not available in America (Holden, Opel, Vauxhall), co conceivably Buick could have been turned into a Chinese-specific brand while jettisoning it in the US.

I do think GM’s transformation of Buick in the US has been genius; I always thought Cadillac was too gaudy to be a top-end luxury brand, and GM’s done surprisingly well in repositioning Buick as a more tasteful luxury brand to take on Lexus and Infiniti. I imagine some kind of plan along these lines is the primary reason Buick was kept; Chevrolet has the brand flexibility to absorb the markets served by Pontiac and Saturn, and GM was definitely lacking in the luxury cars market.

GM’s luxury model pickup, the Denali, is only available for GMC. Not counting the Escalade EXT.

Ford does something with a Lincoln model pickup, based on a F-150. Although I don’t think they offer a 3/4 or 1 ton Lincoln pickup. You can get a the Denali package in a Heavy Duty GMC.

Which doesn’t explain why they maintain the Buick brand in North America, where it consistently underperforms other marquees in the General Motors lineup.


I think the Mark LT has been discontinued for the USA.